Thursday, November 17, 2005

What is blogging?

I've used the same title for this entry as John Johnson used in a recent entry of his. I was concerned because John seemed to be worrying that he wasn't doing this blogging thing properly. Stuff and nonsense says I! For what it's worth, I think the things that John is doing at Sandaig are brilliant. I started typing a comment to tell him this, but got a bit carried away and just kept typing. After a few minutes of ranting in the comment box, I decided to copy it here and make a post out of it, so here are some of the things I want to say to John...

John starts by quoting a bit from a blog by James Farmer where James says "group blogs suck in education". Now I must admit here, that I haven't read James' post yet, so I don't know exactly what James says, but taking the statement John quotes at face value, I can only conclude that James hasn't read the Sandaig blog! I would say that the Sandaig blog is so far away from sucking that it blows... but if I've understood the current vernacular, blowing is a bad thing too... so I'll just say the Sandaig blog is, in my opinion, a fantastic educational use of the technology. (And that's not even going on to consider the other blogs, podcasts and stuff at Sandaig which taken together make an even stronger case.)

In the same blog entry, John is worried because Ewan seems to say that if he is pre-moderating the pupils posts, he's not doing proper blogging. I'm not sure that's what Ewan is arguing, but I wanted to say that even if it was, John should ignore him and keep doing what he's doing. I think John needs to ask himself, "is it appropriate to do things this way within the context of Sandaig Primary school?" I think the results speak for themselves and the way John organises and moderates the Sandaig stuff clearly works. (That is not to say of course that he should not keep reviewing his current practice.)

I think the question John should be asking himself is, what is an appropriate use of blogs in this school with these pupils? Appropriateness is defined by a whole bundle of inter-related issues. One obvious "issue" is purpose. What is the purpose of the group blog? Is it always appropriate for children to work in groups? Of course not. Is it always appropriate to have children working as individuals? Again, of course not. Now, I'm typing here from a position of ignorance since I still haven't read James Farmer's blog entry, but from an educational viewpoint it seems daft to say that a group blog is not an appropriate use of blog technology just because it doesn't fit with a particular definition of what a blog is. I'll come at that another way. Is what John is doing with the Sandaig blogs educationally worthwhile? (I'd give a huge YES to that one!) If it is educationally valuable, then frankly I wouldn't care if someone told me I wasn't allowed to call it a blog. I'd do it anyway. Invent a new name. Call a group blog a grog and then tell James Farmer what he's missing by sticking to a one man band blog. "Blogs are so last year, everyone important in education is doing grogs now. :-)

As for Ewan's post, I think there is a sliding scale here. Do you "police" everything your children do in their jotters to the same level? Some work you will make them draft and re-draft - you will make them polish it until it shines. Other work, you will perhaps be more interested in capturing the raw, initial response. The purpose will help define the level and the timing of your intervention.

Is there also an age and stage thing? Ewan comes from a Secondary school background and my feeling is there are different issues at Primary level. (And different issues again at University level - we are still wondering how to respond to some of the things our students are saying and doing online here at Jordanhill.)

It looks to me like the Sandaig blogs are a different beast from the MSGOnline blogs. Does that mean you are doing it wrong because you are pre-moderating posts? I don't think so. I think it just means that the Sandaig blogs have a different purpose and so it is not surprising that the way you organise them is also different.

In conclusion then, I think we can get overly precious about what we call things. When is a blog not a blog? Most of the time, I don't think I care! It is more important to ask, is this educationally valuable? Sandaig provides loads of examples that show just how valuable this type of online, social activity can be... whatever you call it.

End of rant... Reading it over again, I wonder if I've gone off a bit too strongly. What do you think? Have I been unfair to either James or Ewan? (I'll really need to read James' blog!)

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todd said...

You go girl, er guy! Isn't it all relative? I mean you choose some technology because it fulfills a need to support learning--who cares what you call it. I've never understood the need to define "blogging" or to say that this is blogging or that isn't blogging. Preferences, needs, context.

john said...

Well I am feeling better now:-)
Thanks David. I probably was a bit over sensitive and I don't think anyone was really criticising me. Mostly due to the fact my classroom organisation lags behind my blogging plans.
I'd love to be moving towards Ewan's open comments, open posting, with post-moderation of posts and giving my children individual blogs, but it is early days. James notes in a comment on my blog it is easy and free to give learners blogs due to his wonderful (and wonderfully priced) and places, given a bit of time I could extend our pivot set up for that too, but I could not manage the learning.
Anyway, thanks for the positive feedback, after a very long day I am now blushing.

Anonymous said...

A blog is just a tool, perhaps the most versatile and creatively-insiring tool ever devised in human history, for communication.

It's non-productive to talk about right and wrong ways to blog. A blog "works" when it serves the purposes and approaches the goals for which it was designed.

If you're using a blog in education, I think you need to work out very clearly what your purposes and goals are, and then continually evaluate the use of the blog in your practice in light of those purposes and goals.


David said...

"...perhaps the most versatile and creatively-insiring tool ever devised in human history" Hmm! Over egging the pudding a touch. :-) Otherwise I pretty much agree with you.

I've now read the James Farmer blog post and where before I was just making an ill informed rant I think I can now promote it to an informed rant! Anong other things he says blogs are about, "PERSONAL PRESENCE!!!!!!!!!!!!" Now that alone is enough to make me fall out with him. All caps and multiple exclamations! :-) However, where I disagree is that there is such a thing as a group identity. I think that's why Sandaig's posts work so well. From their blogging and podcasting, I get a sense of the class' personality. They are a class I'd like to meet. I hear the classes "voice" through their posts.